Gone Phishin'

We gush over Trey Anastasio, get some cowbell advice from Blue Öyster Cult's expert and administer a headphones fidelity test

In a world where just about everyone needs more cowbell, Blue Öyster Cult member and cowbell master Albert Bouchard -- now playing in NYC quartet the Brain Surgeons -- is in high demand. Thank Will Ferrell, who consummately parodied him in the oh-so-quotable "More Cowbell!" skit on Saturday Night Live.

B-Sides: So, at what age did you take up the cowbell? What attracted you to it?

Albert Bouchard: I guess I came to the cowbell sort of late, probably in my twenties. But I think what really resonated with me was that I grew up on a farm with six siblings, so my mother used to use the cowbell to call us in to dinner.

Trey Anastasio: You light up my life!
Trey Anastasio: You light up my life!

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Were there any particular cowbell masters who influenced you?

I'd love to say Will Ferrell -- he influences me now! But Mick Jagger used to play the cowbell -- he's one of my greatest cowbell influences. For instance, he played it on "Honky Tonk Women." You can hear it at the beginning. I also used to jam with Tito Puente! But I developed my own cowbell method. It's quite different from anybody else's.

Wanna divulge some secrets?

Well, I'll tell you one thing, for a song like "Don't Fear the Reaper" -- you see the problem in the skit -- you don't want the cowbell to be too much. The band finds it kind of distracting. So I use a timpani mallet. Yep, I use a mallet on my cowbell.

Do you think the cowbell era is dwindling?

No, no, no, the cowbell is coming on stronger than ever. It's definitely on the rise. It's been underappreciated for years. The cowbell has been so underground.

Are you playing the cowbell in the Brain Surgeons?

Yeah, but only in about three or four songs.

Is it hard to put the cowbell down?

No, no -- I play the rest of the drum kit and the tambourine! It's the same kind of odd product.

If you had to give up the cowbell, what instrument would you make your emphasis?

Probably the anvil. I put an anvil on a song once, and I was very disappointed. It didn't sound....huge.

My dad has a cowbell; he wanted to know if you'd be willing to jam with him.

Sure, of course!

His cowbell is from Switzerland.

Ooh, everything I've ever gotten from Switzerland has been pretty cool. I find it hard to believe that they'd make an inferior cowbell.

Lastly, I have to ask: The last time you had a fever, what were you prescribed?

Codeine. -- Kristyn Pomranz

Hero Worship
To legions of obsessed fans, Trey Anastasio -- who's kind of pale, kind of dorky and unbelievably beautiful -- is just "Trey," said with the kind of surname-less authority that one uses to speak of Mick, John or Jerry. The former Phish vocalist has a special place in the cynical heart of B-Sides. He still inspires that sense of worship, that fleet of butterflies that makes our stomach flip when we remember the countless notebooks we filled up doodling "Mrs. B-Sides Anastasio" during Aesthetics seminars. Here's a small paw's worth of the honey that was our 40-minute conversation.

B-Sides: Oh my gosh. I'm not going to gush, but can I just say that this is so friggin' cool to get to talk to you?

Trey Anastasio: Well, thank you.

OK. Wow. It's just that with Phish...well, I was a late bloomer, you know. I feel sometimes like I missed the boat.

You didn't miss the boat.

By the time I got to college and could really invest time and money into a Phish tour, you went on hiatus.

Sorry about that.

Right. Well, you're on tour now. But I'm going to miss that, too. I'm moving.

Really? Where?

Jerusalem.

Wow. Have you heard of Matisyahu?

Of course! Hasidic reggae superstar. I have an Orthodox friend who got mistaken for him a lot at a festival we were at in June. It was pretty funny.

Yeah, he's amazing. I was instantly taken with this guy. I think he's going to be with me in St. Louis.

Yup. Is this better, you know, just you without Phish?

Well, in my heart I know that stopping it was the right thing. Because we tried the hiatus, and nothing was working. It had to stop. I have so much hope. I want to continue to play for a long time, and have that feeling of lighting people up. I really love that so much.

It's amazing when it happens. It's happened to me.

At this point, B-Sides had to pause while we reflected on the fact that we just told our rock-star hero that he lights us up. But it's true. He does. Every time we need to see the sun for just a moment, all we have to do is throw on a killer Phish set. Nutter Center '98, anyone? -- Jess Minnen

The Headphones Test
Let's get something straight: Those little iPod earbuds you're sporting suck. Crammed in your ears, tell-tale white cords dangling down and pumping bad sounds into your head -- they aren't so much headphones as they are painful little status symbols. Put together this mix, and don't sink any cash into your 'phones until you're sure they can handle the distinguishing facets of these songs in style. -- Jordan Harper

 
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